Top Programming Ideas 2003

Last spring we set-up a volunteer work weekend. We stripped the tower of all of its holds, drilled a grid work of holes in the face (around 2,800 holes), placed t-nuts on the back, and set up removable climbing holds (in our core value colors).

At this time we also added the hardware to be able to set up a second climbing route on each face. For each route we added a belay post out front, that would Z the rope to add the friction needed to belay. After an inspection from our ACCT Inspector, we were ready to open the new towers.

This new tower set-up has allowed us to make several changes to our program. Two routes on each face instantly double the number of climbers that can be on the tower and the belay post can be operated with very little training for our campers.

We split the group in half and place everyone not climbing or preparing to climb on the rope (along with a staff member) to help belay. This keeps the campers busy and focused on the tower. It has also established a need for trust with their cabin mates.

An activity, which used to be very rushed, now finds the time to process the experience with a little better quality.

This event is first set up with asking each participant to think about what is, for them, a realistic goal. They then find someone in the group with a similar goal and are assigned to the opposite ropes. They move up the line together so they climb at the same time.

Before each climber approaches the tower they tell the next student in line what their goal is and what they think they will need for support (quiet or cheering). That person then helps the climber reach their goal.

After everyone has climbed the facilitator can debrief the experience and provide some transference to their home by letting them set goals for the rest of the week at camp, or by asking who helps them with their goals at home and how they communicate their needs to those people.

The removable holds will allow us to change routes when we would like to, so it will be a new climb each year for our returning campers.

We can also provide a range of route difficulties so our summer campers can now take a class working on improving their climbing skills throughout their stay at camp.

The campers keep excited about several climbs since each time they can challenge themselves with a different route.

All of these changes have lead to endless positive feedback from our guests. Once again people are excited about their opportunity to climb at camp.

–Tim Brooks is program director for YMCA Storer Camps,

Outdoor Environmental Education, Conferences and Retreats

As children get older at Spring Lake Day Camp, it takes some innovative programming to keep their interest. The older end of the day camp spectrum, ages 10 to 14, has matured to the point that they want to have some input on the structure of their camp day.

To this end, we asked our campers for their suggestions and then molded a program that fit their needs and did not interfere with our other camp programs.

First, we developed a co-ed league program that runs throughout the summer. This gives campers the opportunity to socialize as well as participate in athletic activities. Their program also includes weekly and daily option periods.

Finally, we schedule a number of day trips to destinations of their choice.

We have found that these program changes have kept our older camp population at a high level. By having the campers attend until they are 14, it increases the enrollment in our Leadership Training Program. Once they successfully complete the Leadership Program, they can become members of the Spring Lake staff.

The options work as follows…

Weekly: Each week the campers choose an activity from the options list and that is their activity for the option period the following week. For the first week of camp, they choose on the first day of camp.

For the daily option, the campers get a list of the options available each day during the option periods. The campers choose on a daily basis.

Prior to and after both the weekly and daily option periods, there is a line-up where the campers meet the counselors assigned to escort them to and from their option activity.

–Myron Simon is the director of Spring Lake Day Camp, Ringwood, N.J.

Here’s a great game using the theme from the hit television show Survivor. At camp one of the most common phrases you hear from program directors is, “I wish I could do that but the schedule doesn’t allow it.” Normally, this is true. But Camp Survivor is not done within the normal scheduling thinking. It happens during, around and before.

This is an all-cabin optional elimination program that runs along side of normal programming for as long as you want it to last.

At my last camp we ran it for two full weeks of elimination. Currently, we have one-week sessions, so we shortened the days needed.

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